Good Girl

I never thought I’d have a dog inside the house, much less two. But we have now for about 13 years. Poppy, a runt miniature dachshund, was our first.

We adopted Poppy from an animal rescue group and surprised our kids. She was tiny and sweet. Slept in the crook of my arm for the first several months of her life.

Several years later, we decided Poppy could use some company. My husband really wanted a bigger dog. Some dear friends needed to find a new home for their chocolate lab, Ginger. We were the perfect fit!

Poppy and Ginger got along. I’d say they eventually became friends, though others might disagree. Maybe it was more like sisters who tolerate each other. 😉

Poppy often reminded Ginger who was in charge. She would stand by Ginger’s bed and stare until Ginger moved. Of course, Ginger also liked to sneak by Poppy’s food bowl and take a bite when no one was looking.

Over the past couple of years, they both turned gray and started to slow down. They were a little fussy but still sweet and much more mellow. My daughter often laughed, ” It’s like we have two grandma dogs living with us.”

Ginger’s eyesight began to fail as well as her hips. Although she still had moments of spark, most evenings she would whimper and cry. There was no doubt she was in pain. A couple of falls solidified the decision to visit the vet.

Gart took her yesterday for an evaluation. We all knew it was probably time. She did not come back home with him.

Our house was too quiet last night. Poppy was confused. She sniffed everywhere as if she were searching. I believe she was missing her friend.

This morning’s routine was different. Ginger wasn’t there for me to let outside and feed. Her bowl sits empty. There’s an air of sadness.

We will miss you Ginger girl. We will miss the way you would walk by us. Walk by and lick our shoes. Walk by and lick our jeans. Walk by and finish Poppy’s food. But mostly we will miss the way you would walk by, wag your tail, and lay your head in our laps.

You were such a good girl. 🙂

Purposefully Remembering

Today marks three years since my father-n-law, Bob died. Each of us remembers him in our own way, with our own actions. Most importantly, we purposefully remember. We choose certain things that to others might seem insignificant, but to us say Papa, Dad, Bob.

Here are a few:

Peanut butter on pancakes
Wild Cherry Pepsi
Chocolate covered cherries
Lego sets
Family photos
Catholic Mass
Barbecue rib dinner
Extra whipped cream on your dessert
A cigar and sip of Drambuie

Finding words may be difficult, but incorporating these little things into our day help us remember him and smile. Each item represents something we know he enjoyed or something he would often get for us. He was always generous. Always thinking about his family. Loved to spoil his grandkids.

We miss him…grateful that the life he lived continues to influence ours.

Pieces of Your Heart

Grandparents are special people. My grandparents were an essential part of my childhood. Spending time with them was important. As a child, you don’t really think about losing them. You imagine they will be part of your world forever. Then you become a young adult, or in my case, a high school student and that idea is shattered.

When my Grandpa Mahar died, it was very sudden. Early on the morning of July 4th, he woke up before anyone else, sat down in his favorite chair, and did not wake up again. We had seen him the day before. The family would be gathering on the 4th to celebrate. How could he be gone?

I mostly remember shock and tears from that day, almost thirty-five years ago now. The reality of my mom losing her dad brought a new perspective on the frailty and brevity of life on this earth. And it was made even more difficult because there had been no chance to say goodbye. This seemed especially hard for my mom and her siblings.

This was not the case for my own children with their first loss of a grandparent. Before my father-n-law passed away, we knew our time was limited. Watching as death approached was not easy, but we found comfort in having time to say goodbye. He will have been gone for three years this coming week, and we miss him more with each passing year.

One circumstance is not easier than the other, just different. Grief is present in both. We hang on tight to memories. We look at photos, share stories, cling to anything that reminds us of the person we lost. And as soon as we think our grief is fading, a birthday, holiday, or other event brings it right back to the forefront.

Sometimes the grief catches us off guard, and we are encompassed by unexpected emotions. How do we respond? That depends on the person, for we are all different. But here are a few personal thoughts:

When tears well up
Let them fall
When your heart aches
Let words flow
When a friend is near
Lean on them
When feeling motionless
Take one step
When tempted to forget
Remember
For that memory
Is a piece of your heart

A memory of my Grandpa Mahar: He is wearing overalls and telling me if I do him a favor, he will dance at my wedding. 😉

A memory of my father-n-law: He would always bring me a box of See’s candy when traveling to California. We both had quite a sweet tooth. 🙂

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

Lifting My Head

“But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Psalm 3:3

I have not considered this verse in a long time. Reading it in the past always reminded me of the song, “Thou, Oh Lord,” by Lisa Ireland. I’m not sure when I first heard or sang this song, but the beautiful overlapping melodic lines and powerful words are easy to recall. I can hear them in my head right now…

Take a listen. https://youtu.be/_aYRfUmGpmo

When this verse popped up on my phone today, I thought of the song for a moment, but then my thinking took a different direction. Three clear ideas came to mind-birth, sickness, and death. These notions shifted my focus to the last phrase “lifter of my head.” It’s an unusual phrase, certainly not one you hear every day.

The first thing that came to mind was a newborn baby. I pictured new parents, cradling the head of their precious little one. The baby does not yet have the strength to hold its head up. The mom and dad are the shields, protecting until the child grows stronger. I’ve experienced this feeling of responsibility with my own children as I held their tiny heads in my hands, keeping them safe.

The sweet image of newness was quickly followed by the idea of frailty and illness. Many of us have taken care of someone who is sick. Too weak to even lift their head, needing assistance to take a sip of water. If you have had the opportunity to help in this situation, you know it’s not easy. Here I’m reminded of my mom’s battle with breast cancer, and the assistance she required following surgery.

Finally, I pictured the end of life, the process of dying. A time when we are once again reminded of our weakness and frailty. If ever we need someone to lift our head, this is the time. What a comforting gesture, providing a shield against our fears. This one is the most difficult, one our family faced together as my father-n-law bravely battled cancer to the very end.

“The lifter of my head.”

In each scenario-birth, illness, death-this sweet phrase brings much comfort. Such reassurance in knowing there are people in our lives who love and support us during critical times. Even more so the knowledge there is a God who is concerned with each of these moments. And that He places people in our path to demonstrate this love.

While at my weakest, I do not have to be afraid. When I am unable to lift my head, help will come.

Saying Goodbye

We celebrate life from the very beginning-baby showers, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, promotions.  These events bring happiness, reminding us of the beauty of life.  But how do we respond to death?  How do we prepare to say goodbye?

Although I’d experienced the death of family and friends in the past, I’d never witnessed the process of dying until the passing of my father-n-law.  Our family was given precious time to reminisce, create final memories, and say goodbye.  Sadness mingled with gratefulness as we each had the chance to say,  “Remember when…?  I love you.  We will be ok.  God is with you.”  While coping with the grief that followed, my mom reminded me of the following verse:

”God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.”  Psalm 46:  1-4.

Today it is my mom’s turn to witness this process of dying.  She will soon be saying goodbye to her oldest sister.  In preparation there have been family gatherings filled with memories, laughter, and tears. Today my prayer is that mom, her siblings, and my cousins will fall further into that refuge and strength spoken of in Psalm 46.  Even though sadness and grief will surely come, my hope is for peace found in having had the precious privilege of saying goodbye.